Fake Obama Transparency for Everybody

President Barack Obama answers a question about new pope as he leaves after attending the House Republican Conference on the Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2013.

Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Help me, reader: Coin a neologism to describe fake transparency. I’ve come up with “shamparency” and nothing better to describe the way Organization for Action kicked off its founding conference in D.C. The new 501(c)3 (a rebrand of Organizing for America, the fitfully successful outgrowth of the 2008 Obama campaign), is supposed to be “non-partisan,” even though its web address is BarackObama.com. It can take unlimited sums of money from donors, and for $500,000 a donor can get access to a quarterly meeting with the president. All of these tidbits have inspired a chutzpah-laden campaign—chiefly by the American Crossroads network of 501(c)3s and PACs—to mock the president for his hypocrisy and transparency.

The solution? At the start of the conference, located at the St. Regis Hotel just up 16th Street from the White House, OFA founders allowed reporters into the room. OFA, said 2012 Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, would be an “issue advocacy group,” one that could find common ground with Republicans. As he talked, the @OFA Twitter account (which used to be the Obama campaign account) promised more insight:

We’ll be live-tweeting the founders’ summit of Organizing for Action today. Follow along for the latest.

Reporters were ushered out of the room, but the OFA account was there with the scoop!

@OFA Chair Jim Messina: “Our job is simple: to get more Americans involved in this democracy.”

David Plouffe on @OFA’s organizing strategy: “This is going to be a 50-state effort.”

Plouffe on passing President Obama’s agenda: “I’m convinced we’re only going to do that if we have millions of Americans by his side.”

But this isn’t what journalists wanted to know about OFA. As Josh Gerstein writes, on a related topic, they want to be there to see who shows up to a meeting of presidential allies. They want to know about OFA’s priorities beyond the stuff read out to reporters—immigration, gun rights. Inviting any media at all draws a contrast between OFA and, say, the Koch summits. But it’s a pretty transparent ploy.

UPDATE: This more recent OFA tweet perfected the form:

“When we are able to shine a light on issues that they have no answer to, we will win.” -@JonCarsonOFA on getting Congress to act.